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Has the 'most ambitious environmental lawsuit ever' been filed?

In the most recent issue of The New York Times magazine, an article headline boasts simply “The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever.” Students of environmental law may question this claim. However, the recent lawsuit in question is worth exploring. Quite plainly, the outcome of this particular environmental litigation process could affect businesses in California and nationwide in significant ways.

In essence, the lawsuit aims to hold gas and oil companies operating on the Gulf Coast accountable for Louisiana’s disappearing costal resources. According to The New York Times, Louisiana loses the equivalent of one football field’s worth of land every single hour. Roughly translated, this amounts to the loss of Central Park over a month’s span of time. It is both surprising and upsetting that the general public remains largely unaware of this rate of devastation, especially because Louisiana’s costal wetlands are critical to protecting much of the state’s population and much of its natural resource drilling and mining operations from hurricane forces.

The recent lawsuit was born out of this frustrating reality. The New York Times reports that the oil and gas industries have dug more than 50,000 wells along the Louisiana coast since the 1920s. All of this activity has caused the coastal land to sink into the sea. The rate of devastation is so great that a lawsuit has been filed to hold the oil and gas industries accountable for it.

California has already enacted some of the strictest environmental laws in the nation. However, the outcome of the Louisiana lawsuit could lead to even greater liability for businesses that harm California’s coast in any way. It is therefore an important suit and one worth keeping an eye on.

Source: New York Times Magazine, “The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever,” Nathaniel Rich, Oct. 4, 2014

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